Among all the eggplant spreads in the world, Kashk Bademjoon is unique! In this Persian dish, the eggplant is the star, taking center stage with an up-and-coming co-headliner, Kashk. Kashk is most often referred to as liquid whey: tart, aromatic and salty, bringing a deep umami experience to the dish.
Name a culture, and it has a version of eggplant spread. Baba Ghanoush (Middle Eastern), Baklazhannaia Ikra (Slavic), Melitzanosalata (Greek), Mirza Ghasemi (another Iranian one), and the list goes on . . .
In other posts, I’ve already talked a lot about the eggplant and you can read more about it here. Kashk, however, is a less recognized and frankly quite misunderstood ingredient that is used in several other dishes in Persian cuisine.
Kashk is most often referred to as liquid whey in English, but that is not really an accurate term. Whey is the liquid left behind after milk has been curdled and strained, mostly in yogurt or cheese manufacturing. Also to confuse matters even more, you can also purchase whey powder these days as a protein supplement. Kashk is none of those, and for the love of God please do not use sweetened and highly processed whey powder in Kashk Bademjoon!
So what is Kashk?
Kashk is a full-fat yogurt that is cooked with water and salt until most of the liquid is evaporated and then strained through a cheesecloth. The pulp is then rehydrated with some water to create a reasonably thick sauce-like consistency. The end result is pure umami: a little salt, a lot of tang, and a whole lot of flavor! In Persian cuisine, Kashk is either blended into dishes or quite often drizzled on top of them.
Since there are lots of flavors in Kashk, you might think there’s something for everyone to love. Sadly, it doesn’t always work that way. I have passed jars of Kashk around the table for my cooking students to smell, and witnessed a wide array of facial expressions! Some are drawn in and take a deeper second whiff, but others push the jar away with squinted faces and pursed lips. Think blue cheese or other aromatic (stinky) cheeses. To some it is heaven and to some, they’d rather not! So, if Kashk is not your thing, then you can head toward the dairy aisle of your grocery store and use sour cream or yogurt instead.
One of these days I will get around to posting a recipe for homemade Kashk. (update: find my Kashk recipe here). In the meantime, I purchase Kashk from my local Iranian store in the refrigerated section. As with all purchased products, you will find inconsistencies with texture and flavors will vary. Some are saltier, while some are less tangy and vice versa.
So taste your store-bought Kashk and adjust your dishes according to its flavor profile.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, more as needed
- 4 Asian eggplants, or 2 Italian, approximately 1.5 pounds, peeled and halved or quartered depending on the size
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, ground
- 1 tablespoon dried mint leaves
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup kashk, adjust as needed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon dried mint leaves
- 2 tablespoons Kashk, mixed with 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons caramelized onions
- 1 tablespoon ground walnuts, optional
- 4 pieces dates, cut in pieces, optional
- In a large frying pan, saute the onions in 4 tablespoons of oil over medium heat for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, stir and remove from the pan and set aside.
- In the same pan add 4 tablespoons of oil and saute the eggplants over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes. Be sure to turn the eggplants over once and check to make sure they are browning nicely without burning.
- Eggplants tend to soak up the oil, so adjust as needed before adding the next ingredients.
- Add garlic, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, turmeric, and dried mint leaves. Toss and continue to saute for 2 minutes.
- Add most of the previously caramelized onions and water to the eggplant mixture. Be sure to reserve 2 tablespoons of caramelized onions for the garnish.
- Cover, lower the flame and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the eggplants are completely cooked and softened.
- Using a potato masher or a hand held blender, mash as much of the eggplant mixture as you would like to create either a smooth or chunky texture depending on your preference.
- Add the Kashk, stir and adjust the seasoning as needed.
- In a small frying pan saute the garlic slices in olive oil for 2-3 minutes over medium flame or until lightly golden and aromatic. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- To the same pan add the dried mint and saute over medium heat for 2 minutes.
- Place the eggplant spread on a serving platter and drizzle the Kashk and water mixture decoratively on top.
- Garnish with the 2 tablespoons of previously caramelized onion, fried garlic and mint.
- Decoratively garnish with the ground walnuts and dates, if using.
- Serve with Persian flat bread.